I know a disgruntled bartender in his late thirties who has a clever idea to build a software program that would allow every bar in the world to better manage their craft beer inventory.
For ten minutes, there is an incandescent glow that radiates from his animated body as he pitches his idea to me. For ten minutes, he’s ALIVE. For ten minutes, he’s uninhibitedly enthusiastic. For ten minutes, the world stops, and he has never been more excited about anything in his entire life—then at this very moment—behind the bar—pitching his idea to me.
Then just like that, it’s gone.
The glow dissipates. Reality rears its ugly head yet again and the excuses pour out: “Not enough time in the day.” “I’m too old.” “Work is killing me.” “Too many projects around the house.”
It’s as if I witnessed a Dementors Kiss right before my very eyes, which, in the Harry Potter movies, is the act of a ghostly Dementor flying in and sucking the soul right out of a person’s body.
His idea will never come to fruition. He will never be that happy again until the next time he pitches his idea to me.
We often hear stories from co-workers, friends, and family who all have the next big idea or wish to begin some type of creative endeavor but fail to act upon it. Most of these stories are just pipe dreams as we reach our thirties and beyond.
Is it too late to do anything creative after the age of 30 once life and responsibilities kick into overdrive?
Are we so attached with the notion of job security, family responsibilities and lingering bills, that we lose the ability to step out and try something a little crazy?
Steve Jobs offers no comfort when he said in his autobiography by Walter Isaacson:
It’s rare that you see an artist in his 30s or 40s able to really contribute something amazing.
Does this mean that all of our hopes and dreams of doing something great after 30 are completely shattered into tiny little pieces? Should we stop trying new things and bury our ideas? Should we throw in the towel, raise the white flag, and drop the curtain on any little feeling that gets us the least bit excited?
It’s no secret that as we get older, certain obstacles may arise that tend to impede our creative spirit. Perhaps this is the reason why it seems twenty-somethings, who have all the time in the world, continue to grace the covers of Entrepreneur, Inc. and Forbes magazines with the next great startup idea.
Years lie ahead for your greatest capacity to create
According to the Center for Brain Health at The University of Texas, our cognitive brain performance peaks in our 40s. When pairing this brain research with life experiences and knowledge acquired over the years—after 30 may very well be the prime years for making things happen. All it takes is some careful planning, motivation, and perseverance.
Napoleon Hill, from Think and Grow Rich, offers some encouraging insight for those who feel the creative well has run dry at the ripe old age of 40:
Seldom does an individual enter upon highly creative effort in any field of endeavor before the age of forty. The average man reaches the period of his greatest capacity to create between forty and sixty. These statements are based upon analysis of thousands of men and women who have been carefully observed. They should be encouraging to those who fail to arrive before the age of forty, and to those who become frightened at the approach of “old age,” around the forty-year mark. The years between forty and fifty are, as a rule, the most fruitful. Man should approach this age, not with fear and trembling, but with hope and eager anticipation.
Biographies of American industrialists and financiers are filled with evidence that the period from forty to sixty is the most productive age of man.
Hill’s wisdom explains why Kay Rosalind, at the age of 60, went from a merchandise analyst to becoming a social media expert after starting a blog and obtaining two social media certifications. Rosalind knew nothing about social media and started from scratch.
Or how Diane Danielson, at the age of 40, went from attorney to marketer and blogger through self-education and taking courses online at Code Academy. Danielson had no prior experience with marketing or technology.
Age is indeed nothing but a number. No matter your age or circumstances, it’s never too late to empower your mind through self-education. An aging brain can actually make you more creative.
Steve Jobs mentioned that it’s rare for folks in their 30s and 40s to create something amazing; he never said it was impossible.
Of course there are some people who are innately curious, forever little kids in their awe of life, but they’re rare.
The goal is to remain “innately curious” throughout life and to take action on any curiosities that come your way.